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The cast of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies today

As unexpected cultural phenomena go, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has to top the charts. Originally conceived as a parody of self-serious comic books (particularly Frank Miller's run on Daredevil), Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's heroes in a half shell experienced a meteoric rise to fame during the 1980s via their animated series, culminating in a motion picture trilogy (or quadrilogy if you count the 2007 CGI soft-sequel, which frankly, nobody does).

The first film was an unprecedented success. When it was released, it was the highest-grossing independent film of all time, raking in over $200 million on a $13.5 million dollar budget. It would change the landscape of filmmaking over the next decade, solidifying New Line's place as a powerhouse studio, giving producers enough faith in indie superheroes to greenlight a Spawn movie, and inadvertently killing anybody's hopes of ever seeing an R-rated Fartman movie.

So, what became of the actors who shell shocked the world?

Corey Feldman, Donatello

Donatello (who, among other things, does machines) was voiced by 80's child star and contemporary Wizard of Peculiarity Corey Feldman. If you haven't kept up with Feldman the last few years, keep your arms and legs inside the car, because this gets turbulent.

The Turtles franchise marked sort of a turning point for Feldman. The days of leading roles were fading into the middle distance. Gremlins and Goonies were pretty well behind him. Direct-to-video Lost Boys sequels would be his only constant companions. Unfortunately, this also came at the tail end of a contentious legal battle with his parents, who apparently spent everything the actor made before he was emancipated at age 15.

The '90s hit Feldman like a train. His first marriage dissolved when he was 22, and his career took a hard slide. Lately, Feldman has mostly been associated with his (often bizarre) shots at starting a third act music career, as well as his support for child sex abuse advocacy groups. Some of his more recent acting work has been a return to the ooze well: he provided the voice of Slash on the 2013 animated Ninja Turtles series.

Josh Pais, Raphael

Adolescence is hard on most people, and especially difficult for 25 percent of all anthropomorphic reptilian genetic abominations. Hence, Raphael. The Turtles' moody, red-clad brother was played by character actor Josh Pais, who gets extra points for not only performing the voice of Raph, but also doing the body work inside of the 70-pound turtle costume (the only one of the lead performers to do both).

Even if you're not familiar with his name, you've probably seen Pais' face a number of times. The hard-working actor has more than 90 acting credits on IMDb. Some of his more recognizable roles have been multi-episode arcs on both Law and Order and Law and Order: SVU, his time as Stu Feldman on Ray Donovan, and his difficult-to-forget turn as the ill-fated gynecologist in the 2007 horror film Teeth (which, if you don't know, don't ask). Lately, Pais has been working as the founder and lead instructor of the Committed Impulse acting schools in New York and Los Angeles.

Robbie Rist, Michelangelo

Michelangelo: comic relief, pizza aficionado, masterful wielder of nunchucks (or, if you lived in the UK during the great ninja scare of the 1980s, not). Mikey was voiced by child actor Robbie Rist in the 1990 motion picture. A lot of Rist's career has been spent as sort of a pop culture curse—he was hired on as Cousin Oliver for what wound up being the last season of The Brady Bunch, played Booger in the ill-fated Revenge of the Nerds TV show (cancelled before airing), and voiced Rocky in the Blues Brothers animated series (see: fate of the Revenge of the Nerds TV show).

Luckily, recent years have been kinder to 54-year-old Rist. His voice acting career has taken off, and he now has almost 150 IMDb credits to his name. You might know his voice from Doc McStuffins (where he plays Stuffy) or from the 2013 Ninja Turtles series (in which he portrays Mondo Gecko). Even better, Rist was intrinsic to the creation of the Sharknado series, in which he not only played Robbie the bus driver, but also wrote the theme music.

Brian Tochi, Leonardo

Speaking of Revenge of the Nerds, did you know that Takashi played the voice of Leonardo? Brian Tochi, born Brian Tochihara, got his start in acting at a young age. One of his first credits was on an episode of the OG Star Trek, where he played a member of a group of killer children with an ice cream obsession. Luckily, his roles lightened up significantly once he was cast as Leonardo, a member of a group of killer teenagers with a pizza obsession.

Tochi has had a varied career spanning 50 years, during which he's done everything from anchoring Channel One News to writing and directing 2004's Tales of a Fly on the Wall. His onscreen presence has cooled in recent years. His most recent acting credit was in one episode of 2014's The Bay. As with a few other Turtles alums, he's plenty active on the convention circuit, meeting up with fans and signing autographs like a champ.

Kevin Clash, Splinter

Voice acting and puppeteering are enigmatic fields. Do a little research, and you'll be amazed by how many of the characters you love were played by the same person. By way of receipts: Kevin Clash, the voice actor and lead puppeteer behind Splinter, the Turtles' giant rodent mentor. Fans of educational felt already know the name—for more than thirty years, he was the voice and hands behind iconic Sesame Street characters like Hoots the Owl and small, red tickle enthusiast Elmo. His work even inspired a documentary about his life, 2011's Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Life.

A quick glance at the actor's credits over the last few years shows an uncharacteristic gap between jobs, and the reason is kind of a giant bummer. Starting in 2012, some pretty nasty allegations against Clash began popping up. Two men came forward accusing Clash of sexual misconduct when they were kids. The first accuser recanted, and all other cases were thrown out, but the damage was done. Clash resigned from his work on Sesame Street, and only returned to the Muppet life recently, working on Brian Henson's 2018 adult puppet comedy The Happytime Murders.

Elias Koteas, Casey Jones

It's not easy to be cool. It's even harder to be cool compared to a quartet of martial arts Cowabunga monsters that are standing right next to you. Yet somehow, Casey Jones always pulls it off.

In 1990's Ninja Turtles, Jones is played by Canadian actor Elias Koteas. Koteas had a hot streak in the '80s and '90s, landing plenty of roles, including his two best known performances as Casey Jones in the first and third Turtles pictures and as Thomas Dagget, the lead in the first Prophecy movie.

Koteas' star faded somewhat during the new millennium, but he still works pretty regularly. Recently, he's had a stellar run on NBC's Chicago franchise of programs playing undercover detective Alvin Olinsky on Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and the short-lived ugly stepsibling of the bunch, Chicago Justice. Spoiler alert: Koteas' character was bumped off P.D. in 2018; unfortunately, his acting career has been quiet since.

Paige Turco, April (II)

April O'Neil has had a fascinating life. Starting out as a computer programmer in the comics, she's gone on to work as a reporter, a vigilante, and (surprise) the fifth ninja turtle. With such a wide range of ever-changing vocations, it only makes sense that her face would change too.

When it came time for the inevitable sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the producers decided to go with a new actress to play April O'Neil (we can only assume they might have considered replacing her with a character named May). This time, they went with Paige Turco, an actress who'd been working on soap operas like All My Children and Guiding Light up to that point. Turco managed to hold onto the part for both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze and Turtles in Time.

Since then, Turco has had a successful career in television. She had a season-long run on NYPD Blue back in the '90s playing Officer Abby Sullivan, as well as an 18-episode stint on Party of Five. Between 2014 and 2019, you could catch her on CW's The 100 as Dr. Abigail Griffin; following her run on that show, she's been seen as Linda Pride on NCIS: New Orleans.

Frank Welker, Tokka and Rahzar

Tokka and Rahzar may not have been the most well-received characters in the Turtles mythos, with most fans responding to their presence with a resolute "where's Bebop and Rocksteady?" Even so, the performer behind them is a powerhouse. You want long and prolific show business careers? We'll give you long and prolific show business careers. Frank Welker is a pop culture Panzer tank who's been tearing through your childhood memories for decades without you even knowing it. His filmography is so long it has its own Wikipedia page. No, we're not exaggerating. God help you if you try to load this voice actor's IMDb page; it takes up more bandwidth than Netflix.

Welker got his start playing Fred on Scooby-Doo way back in 1969. Not content to simply play one iconic character, he went on to voice (deep breath) Brain, Claw, and the cat on Inspector Gadget; over twenty different Transformers; Slimer and Ray in The Real Ghostbusters; Santa's Little Helper on The Simpsons; Nibbler on Futurama; a whole pile of Animaniacs; Abu, Rajah, and the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin; and, no kidding, over 800 other roles. Extra crazy: he's still playing Fred on Scooby-Doo after five decades. That's what you call committing to your work.

Judith Hoag, April O'Neil

In the pantheon of fiction, there are supporting characters who become as necessary as the protagonists themselves. Luke needed R2 to talk to machines. Will Turner needed Jack Sparrow to keep the franchise running a decade past its sell-by date. And the Turtles? The Turtles needed April, presumably because she had a job and was willing to shell out (heh) the money for pizza every night of the week.

In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, April was played by American actress Judith Hoag. A relative unknown at the time, Hoag was probably best recognized for her stint on the short lived crime drama Wolf, which ran for 12 episodes from 1989 to 1990. Hoag was reportedly less than thrilled with the direction of the first film, and she's acknowledged that her personal gripes may have been what led to her never being approached to join the sequel.

You can't keep a good reporter down, though. Hoag has gone on to maintain a healthy acting career with more than a hundred IMDb credits over several decades of work, including a recurring role on NBC's reboot of Nashville playing Tandy Hampton. Even so, April remains probably her best known role, with Hoag admitting that she's still recognized for the part three or four times a week.

Ernie Reyes Jr., Keno

In 1987, Black Belt Magazine was comparing Ernie Reyes Jr. to Bruce Lee thanks to his remarkable acumen in the field of tae kwon do, a martial art in which he'd already managed to obtain a black belt. Reyes' star was on the rise, and the young man had already starred in his own Disney Channel show, Sidekicks.

When it came time to shoot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ernie was tapped to perform the body work for Donatello during stunt sequences. Impressed, the studio brought Reyes back to play Keno the pizza delivery boy in Secret of the Ooze.

Since the '90s, things have cooled off for the actor/martial artist. He's had a few bit parts on the big and small screens, appearing as the Monkey King in a 2017 episode of TNT's The Librarians and serving as a stunt performer in Tim Burton's 2010 Alice In Wonderland adaptation.

A brief stint in the spotlight took a toll on Ernie, who stated in a 2019 interview that he "did go through everything that is the norm for Hollywood child actors. That includes drinking, drugs, and all the other vices that Hollywood has to offer." Unfortunately, that may have led to some health problems in recent years. In 2015, Reyes' sister set up a GoFundMe which successfully raised $75,000 towards a kidney transplant for him after reporting that he was undergoing dialysis treatments three times per week.

James Saito/François Chau, Shredder

Shredder: not since Doctor Who has an antagonist based on a kitchen utensil caused so much childhood trauma.

In 1990 and again in 1991, the role of Shredder was modular: voice acting was performed by veteran of the craft David McCharen, who had previously performed in Jaws: The Revenge, the weird Shelly Duvall Popeye, and the occasionally weirder Shelly Duvall Fairie Tale Theatre. McCharen's last credited work on IMDb was in 2009's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

As for the man in the grated suit, that was James Saito, at least in the franchise's first entry. Saito has stayed remarkably busy the last few years, with six onscreen roles in 2020 alone. These include five episodes of Altered Carbon as Tanaseda Hideki, a two-episode stint on Prodigal Son as Dr. Higa, and — hold on. This can't be right. Grey's Anatomy? They're still making Grey's Anatomy? Man, what a weird timeline we're in.

For Secret of the Ooze, François Chau was brought in for Shredder's body work. Chau has been an immensely active performer. A Cambodian-American actor with 129 roles dating back to 1985, he recently had a prominent part in Amazon's gone-too-soon adaptation of The Tick, playing Arthur's stepdad Walter.